Character actor Jay Robinson owned a pair of the narrowest, cruelest-looking eyes in 1950s Hollywood. To complement them was an evil-looking sneer, crisp and biting diction and a nefarious-sounding cackle. These were all draped upon a lean, bony physique that could slither about menacingly like a ready-to-pounce cobra. With that in mind, he made an auspicious film debut as Caligula in 圣袍千秋 (1953), stealing much of the proceedings from the movie's actual stars 理查德·伯顿, 简·西蒙斯 and 维克多·迈彻. Though many complained that Jay's interpretation bordered dangerously on outrageous camp, his depraved Roman emperor nevertheless remains the most indelible image when reminded of the epic costumer.
Born on April 14, 1930 in New York City, Jay came from a fine upbringing, tutored at private schools both here and in Europe. His background in summer stock and repertory companies eventually attracted Broadway work in the Shakespeare classics "As You Like It" (1950) and "Much Ado About Nothing" (1952). He also appeared in and produced the play, "Buy Me Blue Ribbons," in 1951, which was short-lived. After his movie bow, Jay went on to reprise the scenery-chewing character Caligula in 圣徒妖姬 (1954) with Mature and 苏珊·海沃德, and offered typically eye-catching supporting turns in 情后顽将 (1955), starring 贝蒂·戴维斯, and 彩凤伴金龙 (1957), with 大卫·尼文 and 琼·阿利森.
However, it was at this juncture that things started going horribly wrong for Jay. His new-found celebrity reportedly went to his head and he became extremely difficult to work with. In addition, the volatile actor began experimenting recklessly with drugs. In 1958, he was booked for possession of narcotics (methadone) and sentenced to a year in jail. Free on bail, the incident and resulting notoriety ruined his career. After scraping up work outside the entertainment industry as a cook and landlord, he recovered from his drug addiction and married. Resuming work in obscure bit parts, he had another career relapse when he was forced to spend 15 months in jail after an old warrant was served on him.
In the late 1960s, Jay started appearing again on television. He even prodded the memory of his own character Caligula character by playing an impertinent Julius Caesar on an episode of Bewitched (1964). However, it took a huge star like 贝蒂·戴维斯, who had always recognized and appreciated his talent, to help him regain a footing in movies again when she insisted he take a prime role in her movie, 贼母娇儿 (1971). The movie failed miserably, deservedly so, but Jay prevailed and managed to repair his status with a number of delightfully flamboyant and hammy performances. Jay played fun parts along the way in 伍迪·艾伦's 性爱宝典 (1972), 沃伦·比蒂's 洗发水 (1975) and even 小人物历险记 (1988). While he played the delightfully eccentric Dr. Shrinker on The Krofft Supershow (1976) for one season, he somewhat balanced this silliness with made-for-video Shakespearean performances of Macbeth (1981), The Tragedy of Othello, the Moor of Venice (1981) and Richard II (1982). Some horror roles fell his way as well with Train Ride to Hollywood (1975), in which he played Dracula, Transylvania Twist (1989) and 布莱姆·斯托克's Dracula (1992). In 1997, Jay proved an ideal host for the Discovery Channel's Beyond Bizarre (1997).
Jay Robinson died at age 83 of congestive heart failure in his home in Sherman Oaks, California on September 27, 2013.
Chilly but mellifluous voice, often used to menacing effect